July 29, 2017

The Concubine: She Rules

Revenge is a dish best served Korean, apparently. And Park Chan-wook isn't the only one out there constantly illustrating this maxim. Thanks should also be given to Kim Jee-woon for I Saw the Devil, Jang Cheol-soo for Bedevilled, Kim Ki-duk for Pieta and Kim Yong-han for Don't Cry Mommy — fine and worthy movies all. Interesting side note: Three out of four of those examples feature vengeful woman as the leads. So Kim Dae-seung The Concubine is really part of a thriving tradition, a sub-genre of thrillers that's got no shortage of willful women here to remind you that Justice is indeed a lady. This time, however, she's cloaked in period garb. Set during the Chosun Dynasty, this particular woman out to right her wrongs is Hwa-yeon (Jo Yeo-jeong), a hardly helpless damsel who catches the eye of a potential successor to the crown — Prince Sung-won (Kim Dong-wook) despite her clear preference for the grungy her eyes set on Kwon-yoo (Kim Min-jun), a man of much humbler origins but possessing better archery skill. I mean, he shot that arrow of love right into her heart, my friends.

When her elopement with her favored choice is sabotaged and her man is castrated (troubling visuals ahead, people) she starts thinking "long plan," god bless her soul. No one is going to outwit this strategist — not the eventual king's duplicitous mom and the regent Queen (Park Ji-young), not the highly ranked court advisor (Lee Kyeong-yeo), and certainly not the prince himself. It's going to take a few years to get all her ducks in a row, but once she has, she's going to take them out one by one like the sharpshooter she is. This is one cool-headed mama. Furthermore, she's going to look fabulous doing so. The stylish hanboks worn by Yeon-hwa, as well as those worn by the nefarious queen, are beautiful to look at, although your heart goes out to these well-dressed women considering the corset-like heoreitti worn over the breasts. (And yes, I just learned those words.) But pity them not. At least, not the concubine.

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